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Even in retirement, Phil Jackson a newsmaker

Published: Monday, May 27, 2013 2:42 p.m. CDT

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(MCT) CHICAGO — With almost every utterance, Phil Jackson moves the needle, whether he wants to or not.

This holds true whether he's speaking to a packed downtown hotel ballroom _ as he did Thursday night to promote his latest book, "Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success," for the Chicago Tribune's Printers Row literary series _ or whether the Hall of Fame coach is in his preferred element, behind the scenes, discussing in a quiet hotel backroom how his promotional travel is keeping him from planting this spring's first garden at his beloved Montana property.

People listen to what Jackson says. That's as much a reflection of success from the 11 teams he coached to NBA championships as the fact Jackson listens himself. Just before taking the stage, he closed his eyes and took several slow breaths, appearing to take part in a brief meditation exercise.

In fact, just listen to the drumbeat Jackson has created the last six months, when all he really has done is sit back, finish his book and get engaged to Jeanie Buss, the Lakers' vice president of business operations.

Jackson might coach the Lakers again. Jackson could coach the Nets if he wanted. Jackson is done with coaching. The Raptors might take a run at Jackson for a management position. Jackson will run the entire franchise if Seattle lands another team.

And on and on and on. In any city in which Jackson appears, he makes headlines despite his most subtle of intentions to shift the conversation to substance, not sound bites.

But Chicago, of course, isn't just any city. It's where he grew to fame as the Zenmaster, the coach who persuaded Michael Jordan to buy into the triangle offense and sat smiling at six championship rallies in Grant Park. It's why the hotel ballroom crowd showered him with two standing ovations and why Jackson, for all his fame, success and wealth, appeared genuinely moved.

In the course of 50 minutes on stage, Jackson touched on a wide variety of topics, confirming he has "no intention of coaching," embracing his recent foray into social media and strolling down Bulls memory lane while also addressing the franchise's current state.

Here are some highlights:

On Derrick Rose: "He's a terrific player with great heart, fearless. ... There's an inner gauge a player has about 'I'm going to be able to play. I can do the things I want to do. And I can go out there and be fearless on the court.' Derrick never got to that point. How can you question it? You have to let a player be there. He has an obligation to fulfill his contract. He should play if he's capable. But when you have a player of that status, who plays that way with that kind of intensity and that kind of determination, he's got to be able to do what he does best."

On Tom Thibodeau: "Tom's a good coach. He really does a great job with this team. He works really hard at it. I hope it doesn't kill him."

On the appeal of running a franchise: "The triangle offense that we promoted all those years and thought was such a fine system has really been denigrated over the last three or four seasons. ... I could format a group that could promote that type of basketball because I think it's advantageous."

On his favorite game he ever coached: "I guess it would be the final game that helped us win that first championship. ... (The Lakers) were closing the lane on Michael all the time. I had to call timeout. In the timeout I had to ask Michael who was open. He said (John) Paxson's open. At that point, he fed John consecutive times for him to hit jump shots to close the game out for us. That was the demonstration." Jackson also mentioned Paxson's game-winning 3-pointer, on which all five players touched the ball, to seal the 1993 Finals over the Suns.

On comparing Jordan with Kobe Bryant: "It's difficult because they're just a standard that's above in all cases."

On LeBron James: "He's working on those rings. When he gets those rings, five and six, then he's right there."

On Jerry Krause: "Right up to the end, we worked well together. Jerry just that last year said: 'I don't care if you win 82 games. This is your last year.' Jerry Reinsdorf, however, asked me to come back and coach. I told Jerry (Reinsdorf) that I felt our relationship had deteriorated such that for me to come back would be too difficult for Jerry Krause because he was looking forward to rebuilding again."

There were lighter moments as well. Jackson shared how he gave current Bulls broadcaster Stacey King a Beavis and Butt-Head book for Jackson's well-documented practice of team building because King is "a humorist in his heart." Jackson also revealed how Joakim Noah is one of only 21 people he follows on Twitter, a medium that's "a weird world out there."

"You have to have a thick skin," Jackson said. "I like it. It's kind of fun."

But in the end, substance prevailed.

"This book is really a spiritual book," Jackson said. "It's about being attuned to your inner voice and being at peace with it, and, in doing so, learning to lead from the inside out."

And with that _ and another 200 signed books for fans _ Jackson was gone, whisked out through a hotel kitchen to an idling car, happy to be wrapped in silence again.

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